Wednesday, April 19, 2017

For McElroy, A Vice-“Disrupter”… For Davenport, “An Awesome Dude”

(Updated 11am ET)

For the first time since 2002, what’s now a 1.3 million-member fold in San Diego has a new auxiliary bishop. But if anyone’s expecting a clone of the last one, well, have we got news for you.

Six weeks since Bishop Robert McElroy electrified progressive activists (and infuriated conservatives) with a fiery address at a national summit on social justice, at Roman Noon this Wednesday, the Pope bolstered the SoCal prelate’s arsenal with the appointment of Fr John Dolan, 54 – the "pastor to the priests" as McElroy’s vicar for clergy, likewise serving at the helm of two city parishes – as the first of two requested deputies for the border diocese.

According to Whispers ops, the choice of a second San Diego assistant prelate remains in process. As previously reported here, the Padres' Country picks are just part of a flood of auxiliaries to be named across the Stateside church over the next year.

In addition, Francis tapped Msgr Thomas Zinkula – his 60th birthday today, the rector of Dubuque’s 16-man St Pius X Seminary – as head of Southeast Iowa’s 100,000-member Davenport diocese upon the retirement of Bishop Martin Amos four months after the Cleveland-born prelate reached the age-limit of 75.

Over his decade in the post, Amos faced the daunting task of steering the diocese through a years-long Chapter 11 bankruptcy case amid well over 100 sex-abuse lawsuits. While the reorganization process closed in 2012 with a $37 million settlement to victim-survivors, the Davenport case featured an even rarer sign of purification: the removal of a prior bishop’s name from the library of the local Catholic college after revelations that the late prelate had demanded the silence of a victim in the 1970s.

Given the history, that Zinkula was a civil lawyer for several years before entering the seminary is especially notable; the bishop-elect went on to earn a degree in the canons from St Paul’s in Ottawa after ordination. That said, the most unique aspect of the Davenport pick's background lies far elsewhere – a star athlete as a student, Zinkula played football at (D-III) Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, which inducted him into its athletic hall of fame. Of course, while most bishops to date remain products of college seminaries – and, thus, didn't have the chance at NCAA sports – that an All-American's made the bench is just another sign of how times are changing, and changing quick.

Back to the coast, Dolan’s appointment marks the second time a SoCal clergy chief with an extensive history in parishes has been named a hometown auxiliary in recent months. Much like the first, Orange’s Bishop Tim Freyer, today’s pick is widely regarded among the brothers as a warm, dedicated pastor with a fluency in Spanish and an overtime work-ethic that extends to a number of other ministries – in Dolan's case, a longtime commitment to refugees and the church's outreach on mental health issues among others. Yet where the celebrated “Mini-Vann” to the north is more laid-back in terms of the spotlight, McElroy’s protege has already taken to making a splash on the wider scene.

After last October’s opening round of a newly-devised San Diego Synod – a Francis-inspired consultation on family life and its optimal accompaniment in a post-Amoris church – Bishop-elect Dolan sketched two kinds of of ecclesial life in an interview with the National Catholic Reporter....
"There are two different forms of doing church," he said. "One is very dialogical, from a dialogical sense, and the other is from a monological sense. And we have dealt with that monological world: Things come from on high, they get shelved in some pastor's corner, then there's some thought that comes down, but ultimately it's all 'We're going to tell you what to think.'"
Given his current experience as pastor of a “welcoming parish” in the city’s gay and lesbian district, the incoming auxiliary (right) likewise remarked that “Young adults have an acceptance of the LGBT experience. It is simply a part of their world, and they look at [the church], and say, 'What is the problem?’"

Of course, it's one thing when zingers of the kind are made by a parish priest or even a diocesan official. Yet with today’s nod, it's a whole new ballgame – put another way, the US' episcopal discourse is further set a-Blase.

Far from any burning issues, however, behind the scenes in this shop, Dolan is simply known as one of us – a donor to these pages through the years, and someone to whose kindness and generosity of time and encouragement this scribe can gladly (and gratefully) attest. If the Man in White keeps poaching our funding-base like this, though, Whispers might have little choice but to go bankrupt unless more of this crowd starts stepping up.


Described by a close collaborator in Dubuque as "just an awesome dude" – and one "you can't get a read on" ideologically – Zinkula is being introduced at a 10am presser in Davenport, its video headed here once it wraps up. In a nod to his life before priesthood, the Iowa prelate will be ordained on 22 June – the feast of St Thomas More, the patron of lawyers.

In San Diego, meanwhile, a media rollout won't be held due to the thin staffing on-hand given Easter Week. However, Dolan will be presented and make remarks at a mid-morning event in the Chancery. The full shape of his new duties still to be determined, an ordination date in early June is said to be in the works.

SVILUPPO:Per San Diego Chancery, Dolan will be ordained on his 55th birthday, June 8th.

And complete with some impromptu stand-up, the fullvid of Zinkula's own birthday intro to Davenport:


-30-

Monday, April 17, 2017

Viva Il Fluffo – On His 90th, A Toast to B16

Still The Fluffiest of 'em all, Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI marked his 90th birthday on this Pasquetta (Easter Monday) afternoon, as a small group of Joseph Ratzinger's Bavarian countrymen toasted the milestone with music – and, indeed, some homeland drink – at his home in the Mater Ecclesiae convent in the Vatican Gardens.

An instant classic, the shot above was beamed around by one of the attendees, a German journalist; to the Birthday Pope's left is the Papstbruder-emeritus Msgr Georg Ratzinger, Benedict's older brother.

Ostensibly keen to avoid eclipsing his predecessor's day, however, the Pope didn't turn up – having forged a solid bond with Papa Ratzinger since his election, Francis had made a private visit last Wednesday to express his good wishes. Yet in a quiet tribute to his predecessor that apparently went over everyone's head, at yesterday morning's Easter Mass in the Square the Pope carried the gold ferula – the cross-topped papal crozier – made for Benedict in 2009. (Based on an earlier model used by Blessed Pius IX, it's a piece Francis has rarely employed.)

By all accounts, while his physical frailty has slowly but gradually taken hold, B16's mind has retained its celebrated scope and swiftness.

Of course, the whole reality of "two Popes" – well, the reigning occupant of Peter's Chair and a living former one – continues to prove something to which the Catholic world is still becoming accustomed four years after Benedict became the first Roman pontiff in some eight centuries to leave the office in life. Yet even as predecessor and successor warmly dote on each other with no shortage of visits, calls, notes and mutual praise, that their respective partisans instead seek to use their supposed "heroes" as totems in a polarized cage-match shows how little of either man, or the light of faith, the self-serving combatants actually understand.

With the exception of a brief speech on his 65th anniversary as a priest last year, and a book-length interview with his longtime collaborator Peter Seewald described as a "Last Testament," Benedict has gone unheard in public.

In that light, the confluence of Papa Ratzi's tenth decade with this year's Paschal Triduum only heightens the timeliness of a certain unsung text from his sprawling canon – the homily B16 gave over his last Easter in office, at a special Mass on the occasion of his 85th birthday in 2012: the move to resign already decided in his mind....
On the day of my birth and of my Baptism, 16 April, the Church’s liturgy has set three signposts which show me where the road leads and help me to find it. In the first place, it is the Memorial of St Bernadette Soubirous, the seer of Lourdes; then there is one of the most unusual Saints in the Church’s history, Benedict Joseph Labre; and then, above all, this day is immersed in the Paschal Mystery, in the Mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection. In the year of my birth this was expressed in a special way: it was Holy Saturday, the day of the silence of God, of his apparent absence, of God’s death, but also the day on which the Resurrection was proclaimed.

We all know and love Bernadette Soubirous, the simple girl from the south, from the Pyrenees. Bernadette grew up in the France of the 18th-century Enlightenment in a poverty which it is hard to imagine.

The prison that had been evacuated because it was too insanitary, became — after some hesitation — the family home in which she spent her childhood. There was no access to education, only some catechism in preparation for First Communion. Yet this simple girl, who retained a pure and honest heart, had a heart that saw, that was able to see the Mother of the Lord and the Lord’s beauty and goodness was reflected in her. Mary was able to appear to this girl and through her to speak to the people of the time and beyond it.

Bernadette could see with her pure and genuine heart. And Mary pointed out the spring to her: she was able to discover the spring of pure and uncontaminated living water; water that is life, water that gives purity and health. And down the centuries this living water has become a sign from Mary, a sign that shows where the sources of life are found, where we can purify ourselves, where we can find what is uncontaminated. This sign is all the more important in our time, in which we see the world so anxious and in which the need for water, pure water, becomes pressing. From Mary, the Mother of the Lord, from her pure heart, pure and genuine life-giving water also wells: water which in this century — and in centuries to come — purifies and heals us.

I think we can consider this water as an image of truth that comes to us in faith: not simulated but rather uncontaminated truth. Indeed to be able to live, to be able to be pure, we need to have within us a longing for pure life, for undistorted truth, for what is not contaminated by corruption, a longing to be unblemished. So on this day, this little Saint has always been a sign for me, who has shown me where the living water we need comes from — the water that purifies us and gives life — and a sign of how we ought to be: with all our knowledge and all our skills, although they are necessary, we must not lose our simple hearts, the simple gaze of the heart that can perceive the essential, and we must always pray the Lord to preserve in us the humility that enables the heart to remain clairvoyant — to see what is simple and essential, the beauty and goodness of God — and in this way to find the spring from which flows the purifying life-giving water.

Then there is Benedict Joseph Labre, the pious mendicant pilgrim of the 18th century who, after failing several times, at last found his vocation to go on pilgrimage as a beggar, without anything, without any support and keeping for himself nothing he received except what he absolutely needed. He was a pilgrim travelling across Europe to all the European shrines, from Spain to Poland and from Germany to Sicily: a truly European Saint! We can also say: a rather unusual Saint who begging, wandered from one shrine to another and wanted to do nothing other than to pray and thereby bear witness to what counts in this life: God. Of course, his is not an example to emulate, but a signpost, a finger pointing to the essential. He shows us that God alone suffices; that beyond anything in this world, beyond our needs and capacities, what matters, what is essential is to know God. He is enough on his own. And this “only God”, he shows us in a dramatic way. At the same time, this truly European life that, from shrine to shrine, embraces the entire continent of Europe makes it clear that whoever opens to God does not estrange himself from the world and from men, but rather finds brothers, because God causes all borders to fall, God alone eliminates the borders because, thanks to him, we all are brothers and sisters, we belong to one another. He makes it clear that the oneness of God means, at the same time, brotherhood and reconciliation among men, the demolition of frontiers that unites us and heals us. In this way he is a Saint of peace, just as he was a Saint without demands, who died deprived of all but blessed with everything.

And then, finally, we come to the Paschal Mystery. The same day on which I was born, thanks to my parent’s concern, I was also reborn through water and the Holy Spirit, as we have just heard in the Gospel. First, there is the gift of life that my parents gave me in very difficult times, and for which I thank them. But it cannot be taken for granted that human life in itself is a gift. Can it really be a beautiful gift? Do we know what will befall man in the dark days ahead — or in the brighter days that could come? Can we foresee to what troubles, what terrible events he might be exposed? Is it right to simply give life like this? Is it responsible or too uncertain? It is a problematic gift, if it is left to itself. Biological life is in itself a gift, but it is surrounded by a great question. It becomes a true gift only if, along with it, we are given a promise that is stronger than any evil that could threaten us, if it is immersed in a power that ensures that it is good to be human, that there will be good for this person no matter what the future brings. Thus, with birth is associated rebirth, the certitude that, truly, it is good to be alive, because the promise is stronger than evil. This is the meaning of rebirth by water and the Holy Spirit: to be immersed in the promise that only God can make — it is good that you exist, and you can be certain of that whatever comes. With this assurance I was able to live, reborn by water and the Holy Spirit. Nicodemus asks the Lord: “How can an old man possibly be reborn?”. Now, rebirth is given to us in Baptism, but we must continually grow in it, we must always let ourselves be immersed by God in his promise, in order to be truly reborn in the great, new family of God which is stronger than every weakness and than any negative power that threatens us. Therefore, this is a day of great thanksgiving.

The day I was baptized, as I said, was Holy Saturday. Then it was still customary to anticipate the Easter Vigil in the morning, which would still be followed by the darkness of Holy Saturday, without the Alleluia. It seems to me that this singular paradox, this singular anticipation of light in a day of darkness, could almost be an image of the history of our times. On the one hand, there is still the silence of God and his absence, but in the Resurrection of Christ there is already the anticipation of the “yes” of God, and on the basis of this anticipation we live and, through the silence of God, we hear him speak, and through the darkness of his absence we glimpse his light. The anticipation of the Resurrection in the middle of an evolving history is the power that points out the way to us and helps us to go forward.

Let us thank the good Lord for he has given us this light and let us pray to him so that it might endure forever. And on this day I have special cause to thank him and all those who have ever anew made me perceive the presence of the Lord, who have accompanied me so that I might never lose the light.

I am now facing the last chapter of my life and I do not know what awaits me. I know, however, that the light of God exists, that he is Risen, that his light is stronger than any darkness, that the goodness of God is stronger than any evil in this world. And this helps me to go forward with certainty. May this help us to go forward, and at this moment I wholeheartedly thank all those who have continually helped me to perceive the “yes” of God through their faith.

Finally, Cardinal Dean [Sodano], a warm thank you for your words of brotherly friendship, for all the collaboration during all these years. And a special thank you to all the collaborators over the 30 years in which I have been in Rome, who have helped me to carry the weight of my responsibilities. Thank you. Amen.
* * *
Speaking of Providence and timing, as this week likewise happens to mark nine years since Papa Ratzi's Stateside tour, the vision sketched out over those days bears no less recalling and reflection....

Per usual for every Pope, what he said then has only become more relevant with time.

-30-

Saturday, April 15, 2017

On Easter Night, "God Creates A New Age – The Age of Mercy"

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
THE EASTER VIGIL IN THE HOLY NIGHT
ST PETER'S BASILICA
15 APRIL 2017

“After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb” (Mt 28:1). We can picture them as they went on their way… They walked like people going to a cemetery, with uncertain and weary steps, like those who find it hard to believe that this is how it all ended. We can picture their faces, pale and tearful. And their question: can Love have truly died?

Unlike the disciples, the women are present – just as they had been present as the Master breathed his last on the cross, and then, with Joseph of Arimathea, as he was laid in the tomb. Two women who did not run away, who remained steadfast, who faced life as it is and who knew the bitter taste of injustice. We see them there, before the tomb, filled with grief but equally incapable of accepting that things must always end this way.

If we try to imagine this scene, we can see in the faces of those women any number of other faces: the faces of mothers and grandmothers, of children and young people who bear the grievous burden of injustice and brutality. In their faces we can see reflected all those who, walking the streets of our cities, feel the pain of dire poverty, the sorrow born of exploitation and human trafficking. We can also see the faces of those who are greeted with contempt because they are immigrants, deprived of country, house and family. We see faces whose eyes bespeak loneliness and abandonment, because their hands are creased with wrinkles. Their faces mirror the faces of women, mothers, who weep as they see the lives of their children crushed by massive corruption that strips them of their rights and shatters their dreams. By daily acts of selfishness that crucify and then bury people’s hopes. By paralyzing and barren bureaucracies that stand in the way of change. In their grief, those two women reflect the faces of all those who, walking the streets of our cities, behold human dignity crucified.

The faces of those women mirror many other faces too, including perhaps yours and mine. Like them, we can feel driven to keep walking and not resign ourselves to the fact that things have to end this way. True, we carry within us a promise and the certainty of God’s faithfulness. But our faces also bear the mark of wounds, of so many acts of infidelity, our own and those of others, of efforts made and battles lost. In our hearts, we know that things can be different but, almost without noticing it, we can grow accustomed to living with the tomb, living with frustration. Worse, we can even convince ourselves that this is the law of life, and blunt our consciences with forms of escape that only serve to dampen the hope that God has entrusted to us. So often we walk as those women did, poised between the desire of God and bleak resignation. Not only does the Master die, but our hope dies with him.

“And suddenly there was a great earthquake” (Mt 28:2). Unexpectedly, those women felt a powerful tremor, as something or someone made the earth shake beneath their feet. Once again, someone came to tell them: “Do not be afraid”, but now adding: “He has been raised as he said!” This is the message that, generation after generation, this Holy Night passes on to us: “Do not be afraid, brothers and sisters; he is risen as he said!” Life, which death destroyed on the cross, now reawakens and pulsates anew (cf. ROMANO GUARDINI, The Lord, Chicago, 1954, p. 473). The heartbeat of the Risen Lord is granted us as a gift, a present, a new horizon. The beating heart of the Risen Lord is given to us, and we are asked to give it in turn as a transforming force, as the leaven of a new humanity. In the resurrection, Christ rolled back the stone of the tomb, but he wants also to break down all the walls that keep us locked in our sterile pessimism, in our carefully constructed ivory towers that isolate us from life, in our compulsive need for security and in boundless ambition that can make us compromise the dignity of others.

When the High Priest and the religious leaders, in collusion with the Romans, believed that they could calculate everything, that the final word had been spoken and that it was up to them to apply it, God suddenly breaks in, upsets all the rules and offers new possibilities. God once more comes to meet us, to create and consolidate a new age, the age of mercy. This is the promise present from the beginning. This is God’s surprise for his faithful people. Rejoice! Hidden within your life is a seed of resurrection, an offer of life ready to be awakened.

That is what this night calls us to proclaim: the heartbeat of the Risen Lord. Christ is alive! That is what quickened the pace of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. That is what made them return in haste to tell the news (Mt 28:8). That is what made them lay aside their mournful gait and sad looks. They returned to the city to meet up with the others.

Now that, like the two women, we have visited the tomb, I ask you to go back with them to the city. Let us all retrace our steps and change the look on our faces. Let us go back with them to tell the news In all those places where the grave seems to have the final word, where death seems the only way out. Let us go back to proclaim, to share, to reveal that it is true: the Lord is alive! He is living and he wants to rise again in all those faces that have buried hope, buried dreams, buried dignity. If we cannot let the Spirit lead us on this road, then we are not Christians.

Let us go, then. Let us allow ourselves to be surprised by this new dawn and by the newness that Christ alone can give. May we allow his tenderness and his love to guide our steps. May we allow the beating of his heart to quicken our faintness of heart.

[Ed. Note: Lest the whoppers in the above didn't jump off the page at you, read it again.... More than anything, though, to one and all, every wish for una beata e Buona Pasqua – a Blessed Easter!]

-30-

Friday, April 14, 2017

Before the Cross, Today's "Shame" and "Hope"

Despite the wider world's enduring interest in the Pope's traveling Holy Thursday Mass, for Francis himself, the most emotional time of this Week, and arguably his entire year, is instead tonight – the Good Friday Via Crucis, which brings back the evocative memory of the candlelit processions of Buenos Aires to which he was taken as a boy.

In keeping with the depth of the moment, Papa Bergoglio again closed the Colosseum rites with a personally-written prayer linking the crucifixion with the modern-day suffering of the innocent, here in an English translation....
O Christ,
left alone and then betrayed by your own
and sold for a fleeting price.

O Christ,
judged by sinners
and taken captive by the powerful.

O Christ,
your flesh torn,
crowned with thorns
and cloaked in purple.

O Christ
slapped and atrociously nailed.

O Christ,
pierced by the lance which ripped at your heart.

O Christ,
dead and buried,
You who are the God of life and existence.

O Christ,
our only Savior,
again we return to You this year
with our eyes lowered from shame
and a heart full of hope:

Shame for all the images
of devastation, destruction and shipwrecks
that have become ordinary in our life.


Shame for the innocent blood that has been shed
by women, children, immigrants and persecuted people
whether for the color of their skin,
their ethnic and social appearance
and for their faith in You.

Shame for the many times when,
like Judas and Peter,
we have sold you and betrayed you
and left you alone to die for our sins,
fleeing like cowards from our responsibilities.

Shame for our silence before injustices,
for our hands, lazy in giving yet
keen to snatch away and conquer,
for our shrill voices in defending our own interests
and timid in speaking of those of others,
for our fast feet along the way of evil,
yet paralyzed on the way of good.

Shame for all the times that us,
bishops, priests, consecrated men and women
have scandalized and wounded your body, the Church,
and have forgotten our first love, our first enthusiasm
and our complete availability,
letting our heart and our consecration turn to rust.

So much shame, Lord, but our heart still remembers
the hopeful trust that you don’t treat us according to our merits
but only by the abundance of your mercy,
that our own betrayals don’t come close
to the immenseness of your love,
that your heart, that of a mother and a father,
doesn’t forget us despite our own hardness.

Hope. The sure hope that our names are written in your heart
and that we are in your sight.

The hope that your Cross might transform our hardened hearts
to hearts of flesh, able to dream, to forgive and to love;

transform the darkness of this night into the radiant joy of your Resurrection.

The hope that your faithfulness is not based on our own.

The hope that the host of men and women faithful to your Cross
continues and will continue to live faithfully as the leaven that gives flavor
and as the light which opens new horizons in the body of our wounded humanity.

The hope that your Church will seek to be a voice that cries out in the desert of
humanity, to prepare the way for your return in triumph,
when you will come to judge the living and the dead.

The hope that good will win, even in the face of defeat!

O Lord Jesus, Son of God,
innocent victim of our redemption,
before your royal banner,
the mystery of your death and glory,
before this, your scaffold,
we fall to our knees, ashamed yet hopeful,
and we ask you to wash us clean in the solvent of the blood and water
which came from your broken heart;
to forgive our sins and our faults.

We ask you to remember our brothers and sisters cut down
by violence, by indifference, and by war.

We ask you to break the chains that keep us
as prisoners in our selfishness,
in our willful blindness
and in the vanity of our worldly calculations.

O Christ,
we ask you to teach us
to never be ashamed of your Cross,
to not instrumentalize it
but to honor and adore it,
because by it you have shown
the monstrousness of our sins,
the greatness of your love,
the injustice of our judgment
and the power of your mercy.

Amen.
-30-

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The "New Wineskins" of Priesthood: "Joy, Meekness, Integrity"

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
HOLY THURSDAY MASS OF THE CHRISM
ST PETER'S BASILICA
13 APRIL 2017

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Lk 4:18).

 Jesus, anointed by the Spirit, brings good news to the poor. Everything he proclaims, and we priests too proclaim, is good news. News full of the joy of the Gospel – the joy of those anointed in their sins with the oil of forgiveness and anointed in their charism with the oil of mission, in order to anoint others in turn.

Like Jesus, the priest makes the message joyful with his entire person. When he preaches – briefly, if possible! –, he does so with the joy that touches people’s hearts with that same word with which the Lord has touched his own heart in prayer. Like every other missionary disciple, the priest makes the message joyful by his whole being. For as we all know, it is in the little things that joy is best seen and shared: when by taking one small step, we make God’s mercy overflow in situations of desolation; when we decide to pick up the phone and arrange to see someone; when we patiently allow others to take up our time…

The phrase “good news” might appear as just another way of saying “the Gospel”. Yet those words point to something essential: the joy of the Gospel. The Gospel is good news because it is, in essence, a message of joy. The good news is the precious pearl of which we read in the Gospel. It is not a thing but a mission. This is evident to anyone who has experienced the “delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing” (Evangelii Gaudium, 10).

The good news is born of Anointing. Jesus’ first “great priestly anointing” took place, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of Mary. The good news of the Annunciation inspired the Virgin Mother to sing her Magnificat. It filled the heart of Joseph, her spouse, with sacred silence, and it made John leap for joy in the womb of Elizabeth, his mother.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus returns to Nazareth and the joy of the Spirit renews that Anointing in the little synagogue of that town: the Spirit descends and is poured out upon him, “anointing him with the oil of gladness” (cf. Ps 45:8).

Good news. A single word – Gospel – that, even as it is spoken, becomes truth, brimming with joy and mercy. We should never attempt to separate these three graces of the Gospel: its truth, which is non-negotiable; its mercy, which is unconditional and offered to all sinners; and its joy, which is personal and open to everyone.

The truth of the good news can never be merely abstract, incapable of taking concrete shape in people’s lives because they feel more comfortable seeing it printed in books.

The mercy of the good news can never be a false commiseration, one that leaves sinners in their misery without holding out a hand to lift them up and help them take a step in the direction of change.

This message can never be gloomy or indifferent, for it expresses a joy that is completely personal. It is “the joy of the Father, who desires that none of his little ones be lost” (Evangelii Gaudium, 237). It is the joy of Jesus, who sees that the poor have the good news preached to them, and that the little ones go out to preach the message in turn (ibid., 5) The joys of the Gospel are special joys. I say “joys” in the plural, for they are many and varied, depending on how the Spirit chooses to communicate them, in every age, to every person and in every culture. They need to be poured into new wineskins, the ones the Lord speaks of in expressing the newness of his message. I would like to share with you, dear priests, dear brothers, three images or icons of those new wineskins in which the good news is kept fresh, without turning sour but being poured out in abundance.

A first icon of the good news would be the stone water jars at the wedding feast of Cana (cf. Jn 2:6). In one way, they clearly reflect that perfect vessel which is Our Lady herself, the Virgin Mary. The Gospel tells us that the servants “filled them up to the brim” (Jn 2:7). I can imagine one of those servants looking to Mary to see if that was enough, and Mary signaling to add one more pailful. Mary is the new wineskin brimming with contagious joy. She is “the handmaid of the Father who sings his praises” (Evangelii Gaudium, 286), Our Lady of Prompt Succour [Ed.: Patroness of New Orleans; right], who, after conceiving in her immaculate womb the Word of life, goes out to visit and assist her cousin Elizabeth. Her “contagious fullness” helps us overcome the temptation of fear, the temptation to keep ourselves from being filled to the brim, the temptation to a faint-heartedness that holds us back from going forth to fill others with joy. This cannot be, for “the joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus” (ibid., 1)

A second icon of the good news is the jug with its wooden ladle that the Samaritan woman carried on her head in the midday sun (cf. Jn 4:5-30). It speaks to us of something crucial: the importance of concrete situations. The Lord, the Source of Living Water, had no means of drawing the water to quench his thirst. So the Samaritan woman drew the water with her jug, and with her ladle she sated the Lord’s thirst. She sated it even more by concretely confessing her sins. By mercifully shaking the vessel of that Samaritan women’s soul, the Holy Spirit overflowed upon all the people of that small town, who asked the Lord to stay with them.

The Lord gave us another new vessel or wineskin full of this “inclusive concreteness” in that Samaritan soul who was Mother Teresa. He called to her and told her: “I am thirsty”. He said: “My child, come, take me to the hovels of the poor. Come, be my light. I cannot do this alone. They do not know me, and that is why they do not love me. Bring me to them”. Mother Teresa, starting with one concrete person, thanks to her smile and her way of touching their wounds, brought the good news to all.

The third icon of the good news is the fathomless vessel of the Lord’s pierced Heart: his utter meekness, humility and poverty which draw all people to himself. From him we have to learn that announcing a great joy to the poor can only be done in a respectful, humble, and even humbling, way. Evangelization cannot be presumptuous. The integrity of the truth cannot be rigid. The Spirit proclaims and teaches “the whole truth” (cf. Jn 16:3), and he is not afraid to do this one sip at a time. The Spirit tells us in every situation what we need to say to our enemies (cf. Mt 10:19), and at those times he illumines our every small step forward. This meekness and integrity gives joy to the poor, revives sinners, and grants relief to those oppressed by the devil.

Dear priests, as we contemplate and drink from these three new wineskins, may the good news find in us that “contagious fullness” which Our Lady radiates with her whole being, the “inclusive concreteness” of the story of the Samaritan woman, and the “utter meekness” whereby the Holy Spirit ceaselessly wells up and flows forth from the pierced heart of Jesus our Lord.

-30-

Sunday, April 09, 2017

In Holy Week, "Jesus Doesn't Ask Us To Contemplate Him on Internet Videos"

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD'S PASSION
ST PETER'S SQUARE
9 APRIL 2017
(Readings)

Today’s celebration can be said to be bittersweet. It is joyful and sorrowful at the same time. We celebrate the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem to the cries of his disciples who acclaim him as king. Yet we also solemnly proclaim the Gospel account of his Passion. In this poignant contrast, our hearts experience in some small measure what Jesus himself must have felt in his own heart that day, as he rejoiced with his friends and wept over Jerusalem.

For thirty-two years now, the joyful aspect of this Sunday has been enriched by the enthusiasm of young people, thanks to the celebration of World Youth Day. This year, it is being celebrated at the diocesan level, but here in Saint Peter’s Square it will be marked by the deeply moving and evocative moment when the WYD cross is passed from the young people of Kraków to those of Panama.

The Gospel we heard before the procession (cf. Mt 21:1-11) describes Jesus as he comes down from the Mount of Olives on the back of a colt that had never been ridden. It recounts the enthusiasm of the disciples who acclaim the Master with cries of joy, and we can picture in our minds the excitement of the children and young people of the city who joined in the excitement. Jesus himself sees in this joyful welcome an inexorable force willed by God. To the scandalized Pharisees he responds: “I tell you that if these were silent, the stones would shout out” (Lk 19:40).

Yet Jesus who, in fulfilment of the Scriptures, enters the holy city in this way is no misguided purveyor of illusions, no new age prophet, no imposter. Rather, he is clearly a Messiah who comes in the guise of a servant, the servant of God and of man, and goes to his passion. He is the great “patient”, who suffers all the pain of humanity.

So as we joyfully acclaim our King, let us also think of the sufferings that he will have to endure in this week. Let us think of the slanders and insults, the snares and betrayals, the abandonment to an unjust judgment, the blows, the lashes and the crown of thorns… And lastly, the way of the cross leading to the crucifixion.

He had spoken clearly of this to his disciples: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mt 16:24). Jesus never promised honour and success. The Gospels make this clear. He had always warned his friends that this was to be his path, and that the final victory would be achieved through the passion and the cross. All this holds true for us too. Let us ask for the grace to follow Jesus faithfully, not in words but in deeds. Let us also ask for the patience to carry our own cross, not to refuse it or set it aside, but rather, in looking to him, to take it up and to carry it daily.

This Jesus, who accepts the hosannas of the crowd, knows full well that they will soon be followed by the cry: “Crucify him!” He does not ask us to contemplate him only in pictures and photographs, or in the videos that circulate on the internet. No. He is present in our many brothers and sisters who today endure sufferings like his own: they suffer from slave labour, from family tragedies, from diseases… They suffer from wars and terrorism, from interests that are armed and ready to strike. Women and men who are cheated, violated in their dignity, discarded… Jesus is in them, in each of them, and, with marred features and broken voice, he asks to be looked in the eye, to be acknowledged, to be loved.

It is not some other Jesus, but the same Jesus who entered Jerusalem amid the waving of palm branches. It is the same Jesus who was nailed to the cross and died between two criminals. We have no other Lord but him: Jesus, the humble King of justice, mercy and peace.

-30-

Saturday, April 08, 2017

"Let Us Make This Week Holy"

And so, Church, we've come to that time again – the Week it's all about.... But for as much as we call these next seven days "Holy," the degree they really are is the choice and the work that falls to each of us.

In that light, keeping a longtime tradition on this eve, here again is the last preach of the beloved Sister Thea Bowman, given from her deathbed days before her passing at 53 on 30 March 1990....
Let us resolve to make this week holy by claiming Christ’s redemptive grace and by living holy lives. The Word became flesh and redeemed us by his holy life and holy death. This week especially, let us accept redemption by living grateful, faithful, prayerful, generous, just and holy lives.

Let us resolve to make this week holy by reading and meditating Holy Scripture.

So often, we get caught up in the hurry of daily living. As individuals and as families, reserve prime time to be with Jesus, to hear the cries of the children waving palm branches, to see the Son of Man riding on an ass' colt, to feel the press of the crowd, to be caught up in the "Hosannas” and to realize how the cries of acclamation will yield to the garden of suffering, to be there and watch as Jesus is sentenced by Pilate to Calvary, to see him rejected, mocked, spat upon, beaten and forced to carry a heavy cross, to hear the echo of the hammer, to feel the agony of the torn flesh and strained muscles, to know Mary’s anguish as he hung three hours before he died.

We recoil before the atrocities of war, gang crime, domestic violence and catastrophic illness. Unless we personally and immediately are touched by suffering, it is easy to read Scripture and to walk away without contacting the redemptive suffering that makes us holy. The reality of the Word falls on deaf ears.

Let us take time this week to be present to someone who suffers. Sharing the pain of a fellow human will enliven Scripture and help us enter into the holy mystery of the redemptive suffering of Christ.

Let us resolve to make this week holy by participating in the Holy Week services of the church, not just by attending, but also by preparing, by studying the readings, entering into the spirit, offering our services as ministers of the Word or Eucharist, decorating the church or preparing the environment for worship.

Let us sing, "Lord, have mercy," and "Hosanna." Let us praise the Lord with our whole heart and soul and mind and strength, uniting with the suffering church throughout the world -- in Rome and Northern Ireland, in Syria and Lebanon, in South Africa and Angola, India and China, Nicaragua and El Salvador, in Washington, D.C., and Jackson, Mississippi.

Let us break bread together; let us relive the holy and redemptive mystery. Let us do it in memory of him, acknowledging in faith his real presence upon our altars.

Let us resolve to make this week holy by sharing holy peace and joy within our families, sharing family prayer on a regular basis, making every meal a holy meal where loving conversations bond family members in unity, sharing family work without grumbling, making love not war, asking forgiveness for past hurts and forgiving one another from the heart, seeking to go all the way for love as Jesus went all the way for love.

Let us resolve to make this week holy by sharing holy peace and joy with the needy, the alienated, the lonely, the sick and afflicted, the untouchable.

Let us unite our sufferings, inconveniences and annoyances with the suffering of Jesus. Let us stretch ourselves, going beyond our comfort zones to unite ourselves with Christ's redemptive work.

We unite ourselves with Christ's redemptive work when we reconcile, when we make peace, when we share the good news that God is in our lives, when we reflect to our brothers and sisters God's healing, God's forgiveness, God's unconditional love.

Let us be practical, reaching out across the boundaries of race and class and status to help somebody, to encourage and affirm somebody, offering to the young an incentive to learn and grow, offering to the downtrodden resources to help themselves.

May our fasting be the kind that saves and shares with the poor, that actually contacts the needy, that gives heart to heart, that touches and nourishes and heals.

During this Holy Week when Jesus gave his life for love, let us truly love one another.
Again, to one and all, may yours be a blessed and truly Holy Week.

-30-